Washington — Under pressure from the White House, the Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday blocked a Republican bid to speed approval of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
The 56-42 vote came after President Barack Obama called Democratic senators to lobby them to oppose the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Even so, 11 Democrats sided with Republicans to sidestep Obama’s rejection of the pipeline and allow the $7 billion project to go forward. Sixty votes were needed for approval.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Obama after the vote.
“President Obama’s personal pleas to wavering senators may have tipped the balance against this legislation. When it comes to delays over Keystone, anyone looking for a culprit should now look no further than the Oval Office,” McConnell said.
Democratic opposition to the pipeline “shows how deeply out of touch they are with the concerns of middle-class Americans,” McConnell added.
White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that Obama called senators, but did not identify them.
“The president believes that it is wrong to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed,” Carney said, referring to a yet-to-be-settled route that would avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region in Nebraska. Obama had cited uncertainty over the Nebraska route in rejecting the pipeline in January. The president said there was not enough time for a fair review before a deadline forced on him by Republicans.
Carney dismissed GOP claims that the pipeline would ease rising prices at the gas pump as “false advertising.”
Carney called the Republican proposal “ineffectual sham legislation that has no impact on the price of gas and is irresponsible because, as we said before, it tries to legislate the approval of a pipeline for which there is not even a route.” The State Department initially had blocked the project in November, citing concerns about a proposed route through the Sandhills.